Use of Trucking (Road Freight) for Logistics – Impact and Novel Methods for Low Shelf Life Food Preservation

Use of Trucking

The freight transportation industry plays a significant role in the smooth functioning of the economy. A lot of crucial goods are transported over long distances to make them available to different geographically isolated locations. Only a few states in the US have climates that can support the yield of food products required to sustain their population all the year round. Farmers from as far and wide as Mexico and California are now transporting their farm produce throughout the year. Road freight has made possible fresh strawberries to line the shelves of grocery stores in Michigan’s cold December, a luxury that was not available previously.

When it comes to food grade transportation, the road freight industry, trucking, in particular, has taken over the charge from railways and boxcars. Being faster and relatively more flexible, trucking is now the most preferred mode of transportation for a variety of logistical activities. Several food items travel hundreds, if not thousands of kilometres through road freight to reach their respective destinations. Transporting food through road freight comes with its own set of unparalleled benefits, particularly for food items with low shelf life.

Food Safety Parameters:

Transport of perishable food items through trucks requires two key food safety parameters: the food should be kept protected from possible contamination, and if it is potentially hazardous, it should be stored at a temperature of 5 degrees Celcius or lower, or at 60 degrees Celcius or hotter, depending on the nature of the food product.

The food containers are usually placed in the coldest part of the truck containers, and if the insides are not air-conditioned/refrigerated, then food products having naturally neutral temperature are transported instead. Extra care is taken to make sure that the trucks are clean and have not been used to transport potentially harmful goods in the past (like livestock and industrial equipment). In addition to this, the food carrying area is thoroughly lined to prevent any dangers of contamination. 

Protection of Food from Contamination:

Food is protected from contamination as it is kept covered at all times. This is achieved by using containers with heavy lids or by coating the containers with a plastic film. In addition to this, the materials used for covering food products are approved by the relevant authorities. Relevant checks are done to ensure that they do not contain harmful chemicals that have a possibility of leaching into the food. These include plastic films, clean papers, and aluminium foil.

Temperature Control:

Transport of food products with low shelf life is also achieved by controlling their temperature throughout the duration of the journey. If the travel time is short, insulated containers may be enough to keep the food safe from temperature fluctuations. However, for journeys of longer durations, ice bricks or heat packs may be incorporated to keep the food hot. Some additional measures are also taken for food products that require temperature maintenance:

  • Truck containers are kept away from potentially harmful chemicals like paint and fuel.
  • The containers are loaded as quickly as possible and are shut as soon as they are full.
  • Containers are kept shut until immediately before the food is needed or transferred into another temperature-controlled facility.

Benefits of Road Freight:

Shipping of food by trucks has also made it fit for human consumption as the entire process is cleaner and safer than other modes of freight transport. A variety of stainless steel containers carry milk and other liquids having lower shelf-life. Unlike rail shipping, malfunctions in the temperature management units can be instantly detected and resolved in trucks. For these reasons, the shipping standards of trucks are more stringent and reliable as opposed to other modes of freight transportation.

Not until a few years ago, it could take as many as two weeks for a truck to cover long distances, thus making logistic companies ill-equipped with transporting food items having lower shelf lives. However, developments in the industry enable logistics companies to deliver food products in half or even a quarter of the usual time. More fuel efficient trucks and larger gas tanks also aid the process by carrying more amount of produce farther without the need for frequent stops. In addition to this, refrigerated trailers and containers enable truckers to carry these foods across the country without having to worry about its potential spoilage.

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